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Kingdom’s relationship with US remains strong: Saudi FM
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In this January 27, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama meets Saudi Arabian King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster-file)

In this January 27, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama meets Saudi Arabian King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster-file)

Washington, DC, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Monday dismissed reports that Saudi King Salman’s decision not to attend a summit of Gulf Arab leaders in Camp David later this week signaled a rift in relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Speaking during a press conference in Washington, DC, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the decision was “not related in any way, shape or form to any disagreement between the two countries.”

Saudi Arabia’s relationship with its key ally remained strong, Jubeir said, maintaining that Riyadh had “no doubt whatsoever about America’s commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia.”

A number of reports have suggested that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz’s decision not to attend the summit expresses Saudi dissatisfaction with US policies in the Middle East, particularly US President Barack Obama’s impending nuclear deal with Iran. Jubeir dismissed the reports as being “really off-base.”

Jubeir on Sunday said that King Salman’s absence from Camp David was simply “due to the timing of the summit,” which begins on Thursday.

Jubeir said the summit coincided with the five-day humanitarian ceasefire declared in Yemen, due to begin on Tuesday evening, and King Salman was expected to open a humanitarian aid center in Riyadh dedicated to helping Yemenis affected by the crisis.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies commenced a campaign of airstrikes on March 26 against the Shi’ite Houthi movement, which mounted a coup in Yemen earlier this year.

King Salman has dispatched Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, who is also Saudi Arabia’s deputy prime minister, as well as Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is also defense minister and second deputy prime minister, to attend the summit.

In addition, King Salman has also asked the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service and the Saudi military’s chief-of-staff to attend.

On Monday Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, dismissed reports King Salman’s absence from the summit was a diplomatic snub, saying Washington was satisfied it would have “the right group of people around the table.”

“These are the people responsible for the security portfolios,” he added.

This view was echoed by at least one US observer, Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who told the AFP news agency: “You don’t usually send two of the most senior people you have to deliver a snub.”

Obama is holding the summit in a bid to reassure his Gulf allies regarding Washington’s expected final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, due by June 30.

White House officials on Monday said that following the summit, the US would announce integrating its ballistic missile defense systems and boost joint military exercises with its Gulf Arab allies.

For his part, Jubeir insisted the summit would form a “cornerstone” in relations between the Gulf and the US and insisted that it would comprise discussions and not “negotiations” of any kind.